**Originally written for “BigAl’s Books and Pals” book blog. May have received a free review copy.**
Genre: science fiction
This is from the author’s ‘Note to Readers’ at the front of the book:
“The Serbian-American scientist Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) is the developer of the alternating current electrical system which the world has used for over 100 years. Thus, he can rightly be called ‘the father of the industrial age’. And yet until recently, his name was virtually invisible. When I first learned his story, it seemed so incredible that I said ‘this is a science fiction story that practically writes itself!’ … Some of the devices and theories depicted here are loosely based on Tesla’s documented work, while others are based on the more ‘legendary’ aspects of the Tesla story. Still others are sheer fancy. … The basic ideas of this novel – that Tesla had otherworldly visions, and claimed to have received signals from Mars – are documented in all of his biographical material.”
Description: I have filleted the description of the book on Amazon a bit, as it is full of spoilers.
Electric Wizard…Mad Scientist…Public Enemy Number One!
Nikola Tesla has a unique affinity for electric current…he can visualize the unseen…he speaks with beings of light. In 1899, he receives a message from “Mars”. …Then things start to go wrong – and he and his brilliant colleague Clara must go on the run. … At the same time, Nikola must learn to tap into the cosmic forces and face his own demons. …A classic-style SF novel that blends real history with fantastic gizmos, far-out space wonder, and hair-raising adventure.
Author:“L Woodswalker (Laura Todd) was raised in State College, Pennsylvania, where her father was an engineering professor at Penn State University. Her family enjoyed hiking on Tussey Mountain and the surrounding hills of Central Pennsylvania. She is a lifelong hiker and woodswalker.
At college her favorite subjects were Art and Biology. She later worked as a nurse and graphic designer. She became interested in electricity after learning to wire simple LED circuits.
Woodswalker has attended the Philadelphia Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop for many years. Her short fiction has been published in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine and The Magic Within anthology.
When she is not writing, Laura might be composing ambient electronic music, which she performs at the Electro-Music Festival in Huguenot, New York. Some of her other creative outlets include art and video, DIY crafts and steampunk gadgetry.
Laura’s grandmother Ida Epstein came to America from Kostopol, Ukraine, in the early 1900s. To Laura’s knowledge, no one from this side of the family was a theremin player or an electrical genius. As for Jake Flint, it is possible that he, or another ancestor, may have been a bootlegger.
The author admits that there might be a sequel to Tesla’s Signal in the works. To keep apprised of the author’s latest writing projects, visit woodswalker.weeby.com or facebook.com/teslasignal”
Appraisal: You get a lot of bang for your buck with this book. I picked it up because I knew so little about Nikola Tesla. I only heard about him properly when British telly had a brief flirtation with the excellent ‘Warehouse 13’ SF series. And it is certainly true that I know a lot more about him now. How much of what I’ve learned is true is another matter.
So the bangs you get for your buck are these: lots of information about Tesla’s life and inventions (although you have to decide for yourself what of this is fact and what is fiction); two sorts of aliens – the Alu (all of whose names begin with an ‘A’ – which made them pretty interchangeable for this reader) and the U’jaan; a well-drawn, kick-ass, super-bright, female colleague and love interest in Clara Eps; Theremin concerts (if you’ve ever wondered whether, after Sheldon Cooper’s assault upon it, the device is capable of making actual music); all wrapped up in a well-written, old-fashioned, rip-roaring SF romp along the lines of HG Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle or Robert Louis Stevenson. And you get Woodswalkers enormous enthusiasm for her subject on every page.
That’s a lot to fit into one book. It is, therefore, unsurprising that the book has sprawled a bit. There are places where the story loses focus briefly, and some unnecessary repetitious material appears. Furthermore, I did wonder about the vast numbers of electrical things that Tesla and Eps made in very small amounts of time – the most sensational being a flying saucer invented and constructed in days.
On the other hand there are many lovely passages like this:
“… he had seen the whole system in his mind: magnets and coils of bright copper wire, the color of earth’s blood, drawing out the electrons into a miraculous dance. And then further refinements to control and guide the current, braiding them as Mother’s fingers twisted the yarn on her knitting needles.”
If you want to know more about Nikola Tesla, and/or enjoy SF novels from the turn of the twentieth century, then I think you will enjoy this book.
Format/typo issues: On the file I read there were some, minor, proofing errors and a recurring formatting infelicity.
Star rating = 4
Length: 408 pages